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By Jeff White
jwhite@virginia.edu

CHARLOTTESVILLE — They were close friends who did about everything together. But brothers John and Anthony Poindexter were fiercely competitive, too, which led to inevitable clashes.

“They disagreed a lot,” their father, John Poindexter Sr., said. “They didn’t fight, because I wouldn’t allow them to fight. They might have done it behind my back, but I stayed on them pretty tight.”

And for that, and for all the values their parents instilled in them, the brothers were later grateful.

“I hated it growing up,” John Jr. recalled with a laugh, “because it was a strict, structured environment, but seeing some of the kids I deal with now, I realize we were really blessed to grow up in the environment we did.”

John Jr. is a long way from Forest, where he and Anthony were raised. He’s the football coach at Northumberland High on the Northern Neck. Northumberland (4-0) plays Mathews on Friday night, but John Jr. will be at Scott Stadium for the pregame ceremony Saturday afternoon.

How could he miss it? UVa, where Anthony was an All-American safety and now coaches the secondary, is retiring the jersey of John Jr.’s kid brother.

“I’m proud of him, and I know he’s proud of me,” said John Jr., who was two years ahead of Anthony in school and who played football and baseball at Ferrum College.

John Sr. and Lois Poindexter feel that way about both of their sons.

“Guys were asking me about it here at work,” John Sr. said of the retirement ceremony. “They saw it on the news, and I said, ‘I’m a very blessed man, because I had very little trouble with those two boys.’

“Me and my wife tried our best to raise them the right way, and they turned out real nice.”

As a 12th-grader, John Jr. started at quarterback on a Jefferson Forest High team that played for the state Group AA, Division 3 title. The Cavaliers lost that game, but they won state championships in each of the next two seasons, with Anthony at QB.

Not until Bob Christmas, then Jefferson Forest’s coach, talked to him about the colleges pursuing Anthony did John Sr. realize his younger son was a special talent.

“I thought he was just a rough little boy that loved to play,” John Sr. said.

Anthony became a legend at UVa and might have become an NFL star, too, but he suffered a devastating knee injury in 1998 that derailed his career.

He played briefly in the NFL but was never again the hard-hitting safety who’d ruled the ACC.

“I think we took it harder than he did,” John Sr. said. “Your children, you want them to reach the goals that they’re shooting for. I reckon that’s selfish for parents, but you always want them to make their goal.”

John Sr. recalled a conversation he had with Anthony, then with the Ravens.

“He was telling me, ‘It must not have been meant to be,'” John Sr. said. “We all felt bad about it, because we knew that was his desire. But I learned a lot from his experience because, to be honest with you, he took it better than we did, and he never complained or griped about it. That’s what makes me feel good about it.

The elder Poindexter, who works full time at Barker-Jennings Corp. in Lynchburg, also runs a landscaping business. He won’t work Saturday. John Sr. and Lois planned to drive up to Charlottesville on Thursday night — they have three grandchildren here — and they’ll be at the fore of a group about 60 relatives and friends at the stadium Saturday for the ceremony.

“I’m real grateful for what the University’s doing for him,” John Sr. said. “Me and my wife, we don’t take that lightly. They don’t have to do that, and we are very proud, because they allowed him to play there and then they allowed him to come back and coach there. We got a high respect for UVa.”

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